Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: George Voronov and Instagram
Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: George Voronov and Instagram
You hear a lot these days about how Dublin is an expensive hellscape. But we love Dublin in all her messy glory. So, at CHAR, we’ve sought out some spots, dishes, and tips that will help you navigate our fair city when you’ve only got a score in your pocket.
The word score was a vintage way of saying twenty that has mostly fallen out of use except for money. Think “four score and eight years ago”. We like to think it’s hung around because finding twenty quid in your pocket feels as good as scoring the winning goal in the Champions League final.
If you want or need to spend an entire day in the city centre and only spend twenty quid, then this is the timeline for you. Grab the public transport of your choice to the city centre for two euros, and your first stop is coffee.
People think only foolproof guaranteed, always cheap coffee is McDonald’s, though, and that does break my heart for the broke young people of today. There are, however, a few alternatives if you’re trying to lean more on the independent Irish-owned side.
If you don’t want to go over two euros for your bean juice, you can hit Bus Stop on Grafton Street beside Lost Lane, and it’s only one seventy-five. Not exactly artisanal coffee, but it’ll put hairs on your chest and a caffeinated pep in your step. If it’s close to mid-day when you arrive in the city, Reyna, the best kebab place in the city, also has coffee for only two quid. If you’re in the city earlier and want a sit-down coffee for as little as you can, there’s Creed Coffee shop on Pearse Steet. It has an americano for bang on two fifty or an iced coffee for two eighty. According to Gemma Dunleavy, they also have the soundest staff.
In a world where a coffee shop in the ifsc is charging 4 something for a coffee and refuses to take cash…— gemma dunleavy (@gemmadunleavy1) August 28, 2022
let’s take a min to praise Creed coffee shop on Pearse st. 2.80 for an iced coffee, take cash and card and have the soundest staff 💚
I’m only going to suggest indoor things because it’s safe to assume it will probably be raining for the rest of the year. Most of us already know outside stuff is accessible enough. Next up on your day in Dublin is the National Gallery or the Hugh Lane. Get in and see some art, folks. According to some scientists, it nourishes your brain even if you’re not into it.
After you’ve art-ed as hard as you can, you’re gonna want lunch. Stick with soup and hit up one of these places. Soup will warm you, fill you, and leave you with a tenner for the rest of the day. Soup is the porridge of lunchtime. Soup Dragon is slightly over a fiver. It’s exceptionally tasty and does come with bread. Oxmantown has soup with homemade bread for bang on a fiver.
After your liquid lunch, you should visit the National Museum and see the bog bodies. It’s free, and you’ll also be struck by how much gold ancient Irish people had. If leathery dead ginger people creep you out, you could also hit up the Seamus Heaney Museum or the National Library and indulge your inner bookworm before dinner. But, again, these are free entry and an excellent way to while away a rainy afternoon.
For dinner, you wanna grab something carby and filling. I’d lean into pasta or pizza. Hit up Fasta or Dall’Italia Pasta Bar. They have four different fresh pasta dishes for under a tenner. If you want a burger and chips, there’s WowBurger, but you must stick to the hamburger and simple chips. There’s, of course, Umi too, and Zaatar. Both have several things under a tenner. If you’re more feeling Asian food, then You’ve got Kimchi/Hop House or Xian Street Food. Both have multiple options under a tenner.
That said, if you want to squeeze in a pint on your twenty quid, there are two foolproof ways to do it and not starve yourself. First, get a single of chips from Leo Burdock and then grab a pint somewhere that doesn’t attract many tourists, like Sin É. Or head to Grogan’s and get a cheese toastie and a pint for a tenner.
That is a full day inside the city, coffee and all for twenty quid without feeling a lack.
Ah, you can go hell for patent leather on breakfast if you have twenty quid in your pocket as long as you don’t want any booze with it.
The challenge is to make it work for brunch. Weekend brunch has become par for the course. So we went hunting for a boozy brunch for twenty quid.
Blás Café has four hot dishes a tenner or under and a few wines that all come in a little under a tenner. So if you want a leisurely brunch that doesn’t feel like you’re depriving yourself, this is the city centre spot. You also have WigWam, where mimosas are only eight euros, and their food kicks off at eight with french toast leaving enough change to tip and maybe get a tea.
If you wanna feed two people for breakfast on twenty euros, you’ll have to skip the booze or make it a DIY outdoors brunch. Great in the summer, especially by the sea. But not so much as we creep into the winter.
There are a few decent spots to hit up for a mind week or weekend early morning meal with your breakfast-loving compadre. Lovin Spoon is my personal favourite. Catering for vegans, veggies and full Irish carnivores with an option for each under a tenner. You also have Lemon Jelly with a mini breakfast crepe or bagel-based option, all comfortably under a tenner. If you want to go somewhere, you won’t be tempted by extras. There’s Sofia’s Cafe on Wexford Street. It’s a traditionally greasy spoon with w wide variety of options, and nothing on the menu comes in over a tenner.
How full do you wanna be? If you’re out for a leisurely lunch, grab a cheese toasty and a glass of wine from Loose Cannon.
If you’re looking for a burger and a pint, you can head to literally any Galway Bay Bar. But wanna keep it healthy, head to Sprout or Blazing Salads. You probably know a million places with lunch for one under twenty quid already, so I won’t dawdle here.
Lunch for two on a score is almost grand during the week. But, unfortunately, there are no boozy options unless you’re gonna grab some takeaway beers with your deli sambos from Fallon and Byrne.
But if you want to sit down together and enjoy a proper lunch, there are a few options. You can hit up Nut Butter if you are both in the mood for something refreshing and nourishing. Only one of their mains is over a tenner. Vegan Sandwich Company also has loads of options under a tenner. Social Fabric cafe has avocado toast for around nine euros if you wanna feel like classic millennials without breaking the bank. Mad Yolks only have one sandwich over a tenner, so it’s a great place to hit up if you are monstrously hungry but need to keep frugal for two.
If you want to make a date of it, you can always head down to St Annes Market or Temple Bar food market on a Saturday. Nearly every food truck there has a dish under a tenner. That way, you can both get something different on the same score.
Pretty doable. And you can eat pretty much whatever you want. Chicken Burger? Chimac. Lasagne (or literally any pasta you can think of)? Sprezzatura. Pizza or wings? Vice. Fast casual as a style rarely goes over twenty quid a head as long as you don’t over-order.
And now we come to my top tip for saving money while eating out. Keep some fruit on ya, and don’t let yourself get too hungry. As soon as you a famine level ravenous, you’ll throw the budget out the window when you get a menu in your hands. If you have a little snack before you head out, it’ll be much easier to keep your head. It’s like pre-bating but for dinner.
Capel Street is the place to head if you don’t know what you’re in the mood for but know your budget. First, you have Dash Burger, which only hits your twenty euro cap if you get a side and an alcoholic beverage. There are Brothers Dosirak, and Arisu to consider if you’re looking for an appetiser main combo that comes in around twenty euros. While vastly different in their cuisines, each of these spots has starters for between five and eight and mains between ten and twelve. You can be tempted to go up a price point, though, sometimes.
Ah, but what if I want steak and I only have a score? I hear you say. Well, do I have a spot for you. At Feather Blade, you can get their signature feather blade steak for only fourteen euros. Even when you add the beef dripping chips to it, that only comes in at eighteen euros, leaving you, the kind, generous person that you are, enough money to tip whoever is lucky enough to be your server rounding it off at twenty euros even. Perfect treat yourself dinner without going overboard. Just don’t get lured in by the bigger steaks.
Beef and Lobster have a steak with a side of corn and house slaw for nineteen ninety-five. While it isn’t the cheapest option on the menu, some dishes run pretty expensively here.
If your next thought is, “I bet you can’t find seafood at that price, ” you’d be wrong. You can get a starter and a main for twenty quid at Fish Shop. Or three starters, a glass of wine, and even oysters and a glass of wine. If you weren’t too hungry, you could probably do a selection of small plates for two people. But it would be stretching it.
You can also get Tagliolini Al Nero Di Seppia, a traditional Italian seafood pasta, for only nineteen euros across the way in Grano. So if there are two of you, who want to keep it lean but still feel fancy, Grano is a great place to go.
It is tricker but not impossible. If you’re the kind of twosome who’re comfortable sharing, I recommend the sharing plate in Umi that lands at eighteen euros. Shouk has something similar coming in at precisely twenty, but that doesn’t leave room to tip.
“If you’re chronically online, then keep your eyes peeled for when Falon and Byrne do their “Spend twenty euro and get a twenty euro voucher for our wine bar” that is an excellent deal if you can skip the wine and just go in on the cheeseboard.
Metro Cafe is open till half eight and has a good few traditional dinners such as Beef and Guinness Stew for a tenner.
If you want dinner for two with a drink, but think it’s not possible, do I have a special for you. In Ranelagh, at El Buchetto, you can get a cheese and charcuterie board with two Aperol Spritzes for only twenty euros. The perfect date night spot if you’re saving all your spare euros for the inevitably large electricity bill that’s headed for us all.
Eating for two is much easier if you have an extra fiver. The Hungry Mexican has Ireland’s biggest chimichanga for two at twenty-five euros, and Kokoro Ramen Bar has Ramen for two for twenty-five too.
There are hundreds of ways to eat out in Dublin without going over your twenty quid budget. So go forth and enjoy, even in this cost of living crisis.
Elsewhere on CHAR: Dublin on a Tenner